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Research
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NETFUND is actively involved in research aimed at promoting evidence-based programming and policy development for environmental management in Kenya. The organization not only applies research findings to design innovative projects that support environmental management, but also disseminate the research findings and best practices to policy makers, project developers and other researchers in the country. 
The overall purpose of the programme is to promote evidence-based programming and policy development for environmental management in Kenya.

Specifically, the programme’s objectives are to:

  1. Increase research for environmental management in Kenya.
  2. Increase dissemination of environmental knowledge and innovation 
    In this respect, NETFUND implements and supports various environmental research projects.

Our Research Projects

Concluded projects

1. Research on renewable energy

The research is titled “Factors Influencing Household Adoption of Renewable Energy Technologies in Rural Kenya”.  

NETFUND in partnership with the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI), conducted a research study on the factors influencing household adoption of renewable energy technologies in Kenya. The study was motivated by the fact that despite increased promotion of renewable energy technologies in the country, their uptake is still limited among Kenyan households.

The research was meant to inform the design and development of future interventions on the uptake of these technologies in the country. The study focused on the various energy technologies among Kenyan rural households, whether modern or traditional and the factors that influenced the decision to switch or not switch.

The methodology involved desk-scoping at national level with detailed review of existing research literature on the subject. This was complemented by a case study of three counties (Tharaka-Nithi, Narok and Elgeyo-Marakwet). The research was supported by funds from SIDA under the NETFUND GIA programme.

The research was finalized and the report published. Two hundred copies of the report were reproduced and 150 copies shared with stakeholders. The research report can be accessed through the NETFUND online resource centre or on our publications page.

A stakeholder workshop was also organized to present the research findings where stakeholders from county and national government, private sector and NGOs come together to discuss the findings and propose required interventions.

One important outcome of the study is the establishment of the NETFUND Renewable Energy Working Group to spearhead the renewable energy agenda in the country. It is constituted by stakeholders from various organizations including the Council of Governors, the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND), Christian Aid, GIZ and Stockholm Environment Institute, among other organizations. The working group advocates for mainstreaming of renewable energy technologies in county planning.

This working group plans to organize a workshop with county directors in charge of energy and health to sensitize them on the need to mainstream this agenda in the second generation County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs).

Read the Renewable Energy research report here

2. The potential of Biofuel from water hyacinth as an alternative household cooking energy: Case of Yiro West Sub-location

This research project was intended to explore the potential of utilizing the water hyacinth to produce biofuel and the possibility of households to adopt the biofuel, approaches that are expected to immensely contribute to eradication of the noxious weed.This study was important for the decisions regarding the incubation and upscaling of the ‘Green Biofuel from water hyacinth project’, an innovation of Mudhiero Mixed secondary school which is under NETFUND’s incubation program. The findings were meant to advice on whether or not the innovators and NETFUND should proceed with the project, as well as the key issues that the incubation should focus on. The research was funded by WWF as support for the Green Biofuel project. The study was finalized and findings presented in a report.

The results informed NETFUND on the decision to upscale the initiative into a commercial harvesting of the water hyacinth for production of biofuel which promises manifold benefits; managing the water hyacinth in Lake Victoria, providing affordable clean fuel for households, reducing carbon emission by eliminating use of kerosene, and creating employment opportunities hence contributing to the country’s green economy strategy.

 

Ongoing projects

1 Determining the effect of solar and biomass drying technologies on the physical and chemical stability of mango powder during storage time

This project contributes to enhancing the climate resilience of local communities in Kenya. The aim of the project is to test the application and effect of solar and biomass drying technologies on the physical and chemical structures of dried and powdered mango. This project draws on several research works on mango drying technologies carried out by Prof. Caleb Nindo using the Refractance Window Drying® technology1 for drying and converting mangos into powder. Refractance Window Drying® technology is the gentlest method developed so far for drying fresh mangoes and other fleshed fruits. Refractance Window is a dehydration method that uses infra-red light, rather than direct extremes of temperature, to remove water from food. It relies on the conductivity of water together with the properties of infra-red and the refractance of light as the preferred method for preserving the macro and micro elements and phytonutrients found in whole fleshed fruits. This method enables important sensory qualities of the fresh whole fruit, such as colour, aroma and taste to be retained.

Specific objectives of the research are to:

  1. Determine factors contributing to the caking and change in colour of the mango powder and fortified mango flours.
  2. Determine maximum shelf life of the packed products i.e. mango powder and fortified flours and to.
  3. Determine and design proper packaging and branding materials for the mango powder and fortified flours.

This project is ongoing. Adoption of solar and biomass drying technologies is expected to result in increased value added of local agricultural products, reduced post-harvest, increased employment and incomes and reduced poverty and food insecurity.

The project is financed and supported by SovakAid.

 

2. Enhancing climate resilience and nutrition uptake through fortification of corn flour with locally produced high nutrition value crops in Kitui County

NETFUND with support from Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is implementing a project in Kitui County that is empowering over 600 women mango growers in the region. This is through preservation to reduce post-harvest losses and enhance diversification in use of the mango fruit.

Kitui is one of Kenya’s Arid and Semi-Arid Lands. However, the mango tree is adaptable to this climate which leads to plentiful yields thereby presenting an opportunity for improving incomes and alleviating poverty among the women. A fully equipped mango processing plant was launched in October 2015. This has brought hope farmers and is expected to improve the economic livelihood of Kitui County residents. The powder produced is a healthy additive to juices and also fortifies other products like maize and porridge flour thereby enhancing the nutritional value. Two more processing plants are under construction with the installation of machines ongoing.

3. Recycling of rice husks into locally-made water-resistant particle boards

NETFUND is supporting implementation of the Low Emission and Climate Resilient Development (LECRD) Project whose objectives are: (a) To enhance climate knowledge management and capacity and (b) to promote domestic entrepreneurship and innovation. One of the key deliverables under the LECRD Project is to support the development and scale up of technologies that contribute to a low carbon emission and climate resilient economy.

NETFUND with support from partners is conducting a feasibility study to establish the most viable technology that can use rice husks from Mwea Rice Irrigation Scheme as a raw material to produce particle boards that can be marketed in the county and other surrounding counties. The project aims to establish the viability of recycling rice husks into locally-made water-resistant particle boards.

Kirinyaga county hosts the Mwea Rice Irrigation Scheme which is also largest rice irrigation scheme in Kenya, accounting for 78% of the irrigated area and 88% of total rice production in the county and an average of 50,000 tons of rice yields per year. However, this also translates to production of over 5,000 tons of rice husks per year, these being the waste products of processing of rice. Rise husks take long to decompose while having very high ash contents and therefore are not considered as substitutes for household cooking fuel. To this end, there continues to grow mountains of the rice husks thus presenting a threat to arable farmland.

In addition, rice husks account for 20- 25% of rice by weight and are mainly made up of ligno-cellulosic micro structures that make them have long decomposition times which makes them not to be good substrates for making manure. The cellulosic nature of the husks also makes them to have high ash content and low calorific values. As a result of these properties, rice husks are not suitable for use as house hold fuel for cooking.

The mountains of rice husks pose a serious disposal problem on arable farm lands, with the only available management practise being open field burning. The rice husks on the other hand can serve as readily available and inexpensive valuable raw materials for particle board production. The particle boards are a potential substitute for wood based products and can be used in construction, furniture, and interior decoration (wall and ceiling panelling).

General Objective

To establish the viability of recycling rice husks into locally-made water-resistant particle boards.

Specific Objectives

  1. To establish the socio economic baseline situation of the proposed project sites.
  2. To establish the cost benefit analysis of producing particle boards from rice husks.
  3. To establish the environmental impacts and the life cycle of the proposed project.To establish the most viable technology and cost for setting up the pilot plant.

Project Partners: NETFUND, County Government of Kirinyaga, Community Organization and Training for Risk Reduction (COTRR) and Biovision Africa Trust. 

4. A systematic approach to air  pollution in East Africa

The deterioration of air quality is increasingly becoming a global concern due to pollution. It is a widespread problem affecting millions of people exposed to high levels of air pollution that exceed one or more ambient limit values. Over 12.6 million premature deaths were associated with air pollution in 2012 with low and middle income countries being the greatest victims of this problem taking up to 88% of the deaths (WHO, 2014). Outdoor air pollution can result into various health conditions including ischemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and acute lower respiratory infections in children. In Kenya, it is estimated that air pollution cause 15,000 premature deaths annually where indoor air pollution is prominent in rural areas while vehicular emission are the most important in urban areas. Women and children are often the victims of indoor air pollution.

Until recently, air pollution was not considered as a major environmental issue by Governments, civil society and academia. As such, little effort and investments have been made in understanding its temporal and special variability to inform policy and its management practices. This explains the almost non-existence of data and regulations on air quality in the country. Limited air monitoring data and the associated health impacts of air pollution undermines the development of responsive transportation and land due policies that could reduce health burdens resulting from   outdoor air pollution.

In responding to this need, NETFUND and its partners has developed the “A Systems Approach to Air Pollution – East Africa (ASAP-East Africa)” project. The project brings together leading UK and East African researchers in air pollution, urban planning, economic geography, public health, social sciences and development studies to provide a framework for improved air quality management in three East African cities: Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Kampala (Uganda) and Nairobi (Kenya).

This timely and responsive programme of activity will enhance local decision-making abilities to improve urban air quality, reduce the effects of air pollution upon human health, and allow for sustainable development to proceed without further deterioration in air quality.

Central to the project’s aims are strengthening research capabilities and technological expertise in East Africa, with local stakeholders and experts involved in the conception, implementation, and uptake of the programme and its outcomes.

Project Partners: African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) and University of Nairobi, Council of Governors

5. Production  of bio ethanol from cellulosic agro waste biomass

Kenya’s Energy Act of 2006 mandates the government to pursue and facilitate the production of biofuels. The Act also delegates broad authority to KEBS to determine fuel quality and blending standards for biofuels. Currently, the ethanol blending standards set by KEBS permit the blending of 10% ethanol with 90% petrol. It also seeks to encourage wider adoption of renewable energy technologies, thereby enhancing their role in the country’s energy supply matrix.

This project is part of NETFUND’s efforts to support the development and scale up of technologies that contribute to a low carbon emission and climate resilient economy, such as renewable energy technologies.

Like sugar materials, starchy materials are also in the human food chain and are thus expensive. Fortunately, a third alternative exists—cellulosic materials form agro wastes. Cellulosic resources being abundant and outside the human food chain makes them relatively inexpensive feedstock for ethanol production.

The utilization of cellulosic agro-wastes for production of bio-ethanol can decrease dependence on foreign oil, reduce trade deficits, create jobs in rural areas, reduce air pollution, and reduce global greenhouse effect.

General Objective

To establish the viability of sweet sorghum stalks as an alternative feedstock for bioethanol production in three counties of Kenya (Siaya, Nakuru and Machakos).

Specific Objectives

  1. To establish the socioeconomic baseline situation of the proposed project sites.
  2. To establish the cost benefit analysis of producing ethanol from sweet sorghum.
  3. To establish the environmental impacts and the life cycle of the proposed project.

Project Partners: NETFUND, County Governments of Siaya, Makueni and Nakuru, Community Organization and Training for Risk Reduction (COTRR) and Biovision Africa Trust.

Other Research Partners

NETFUND is also working closely with various research partners including Africa Research Consortium, Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI), Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology, Africa Centre for Technology Studies (ACTs) and Tangaza University among others.


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